Are teams taking it easy on Sidney Crosby?

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Sidney Crosby’s second comeback is now three games old and, for the most part, it’s gone well — he’s registered five assists, averaged just over 16 minutes of ice time and the Penguins have gone 2-0-1.

This got Bruce Arthur from the National Post thinking: Why is it going so well?

Aside from the obvious stuff like “Crosby’s a great player” and “Pittsburgh’s a great team”, there’s another explanation worth considering — that No. 87’s peers might be treating him with deference.

More, from the Post:

So far nobody has approached the line with the game’s signature player. Philadelphia snapped Pittsburgh’s 11-game win streak Sunday in a typically snarl-filled game, but Crosby was not among those bloodied, or even significantly bumped. During a 5-2 win over the New York Rangers on Thursday, Crosby was jostled and shoved when the opportunity arose, and as he put it, “Were they trying to do anything extra? No. But I don’t think they passed up on much.”

In a 5-2 romp over the New Jersey Devils Saturday, Pittsburgh outshot New Jersey 44-14, and Crosby flew around and was robbed of perhaps three goals, and Devils star Patrick Elias criticized his team for being too passive.

“We were hesitant,” he told reporters. “Instead of going after them, we were kind of looking around … They’re just hockey players. They’re good hockey players, but they’re just hockey players like us. We just have to play and not think about other things too much, like who we’re playing against. When we do that, we’re okay, we’re a good team.”

Arthur then brings up another intriguing point: Crosby’s teammate, Kris Letang — who missed 26 games this year with a concussion of his own — has been physically engaged since returning to the lineup (and in some instances, more than usual.) He received a big hit from New Jersey’s Eric Boulton, threw a big hit on Jaromir Jagr and got hit the face from Braydon Coburn during a post-whistle scrum.

Remember, both Letang and Crosby returned from their respective concussions at the same time.

It was Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky who, prior to Crosby’s comeback game last Thursday, offered up the “we don’t think about [Crosby], because we don’t really care about him,” quote. That’s all well and good, but eventually teams will start thinking about Crosby, and caring about Crosby — especially if he’s scoring at a point-per-game clip.

“Sooner or later somebody is going to hit Sidney Crosby like he is Kris Letang,” Arthur writes. “The question, of course, will be what happens then.”